By the time the Olympics arrive London will have undergone a process of heavy militarisation.
Sniper teams will be flown in Merlin helicopters, apparently from the deck of an aircraft carrier docked in Greenwich; a method of over-watch used in counter-insurgency operations and the so-called ‘eagle’ checkpoints. The technique was developed so that a roadblock could be set up at random from the air, deploying troops and then taking off again to provide circling over-watch and accurate fire support from on high.
There will also be drones over the Olympics, another example of technology developed in the War on Terror being translated into state security. These will lack the under-slung Hellfire missiles of the now-iconic Predator (shown above) drones used in Afghanistan, Pakistan and with mixed results over Iran. Not least because the missiles involved will be positioned on rooftops around London, rather then attached to the drones.
HVM and Rapier missiles will be positioned on rooftops over a number of locations. Air Defense systems like these come with certain conditions. HVM (high velocity missile) can be mounted on a Stormer vehicle – a deriviative of the Household Cavalry’s Scimitar, effectively a small tank-like vehicle – while Rapier has traditionally been used by, among others, the RAF regiment for airfield defence during war-time.
Armed soldiers are attached to each system to serve as ‘point defence’; whether that is the case in Bow is unclear but it is normal procedure when artillery is deployed in a theatre of war. These kinds of missiles have fallen into disuse given that our latest wars have been wars among and against the populations rather then against standing armies with effective air power. This seems to beg the question – given the constant competition for funding and capability within the military – of whether use here is being used to justify refitting or updating these otherwise defunct and fairly creaking systems. The artillery regiments which normally deploy them have been largely re-roled.
There is also the tactical question of how effective these weapon systems will be against a 9/11-style attack over London. HVM and Rapier shoot down planes, they do not vaporise them; so assuming an effective hit the target aircraft will still crash somewhere in London. It doesn’t stretch the imagination to much to assume that the government would rather have it land in Tower Hamlets, for example, then Canary Wharf or that bloody Gherkin building.
Police boats on the Thames will be used as the platform for a sonic weapon designed to flatten crowds of protesters by damaging their hearing. This weapon doubles up as a loudspeaker and belongs to the category of public order weaponry which goes under the dubious heading of ‘less-than-lethal’; it is of course perfectly capable of causing deaths. Needless to say falling bodies – and bodies subjected to sonic weapons will fall – tend to bang off surfaces and surrounds. It might also be worth recalling the sanctioning of water-cannons after the London riots which can be used in a similar way to break up, disperse and force protesters to desist.
The streets will be patrolled by soldiers – some estimates say up to 1500 may be seconded and put under police control. The police themselves, as anyone who has tangled with them on a protest will tell you, have long-since become militarised. Armed, masked, with a history of ideologically and racially-motivated violence and spoiling for a fight – despite recent efforts to cast themselves as part of the ’99%’ popularised by the Occupy movement; a social movement well acquainted with militarised policing.
Another addition to this multi-layered arms fair are Hesco ‘concertainers’ in Hackney Wick accompanied by a component of G4S private security operators (read: mercenaries). Hesco conertainers or bastions are, essentially, metal cages of varying sizes which are lined with a Hessian bag and filled with spoil to form a highly effective fortification and a kind of blast wall.
These are used in and around bases in Iraq and Afghanistan and are familiar sight to any veteran. The pioneering inventor of Hesco – Jimi Heseldon, an ex-miner and darling of the military industry – also invented the Segway which was seen transporting Chinese SWAT teams around the Beijing Olympics. In a bizarre twist Heseldon died after driving a cross country version of one of his inventions off a cliff. These are just another example of a specific, post 9/11 technology being brought to bear in the countries where the wars were originated and, in these cases, against the local population.
Questions arise from all of this. For example, how long does the legislation – if there is any specific legislation – which provides the authority to militarise a city last? Does is end after the bread and circuses have ended, or does it stay in force? Will this be a feature at every major sporting event? Or at every protest?
The increased use of technologies developed in the 9/11 wars should concern us all, particularly as the main ‘security issue’ appears to be protest and activism. As if seeing police officers with guns wasn’t worrying enough – and nothing worries an ex-soldier more than a copper with a rifle - we now have a city being shaped for a full counter-insurgent operation.